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Sunday, April 18, 2010

An introduction to dating methods like carbon dating and others

Long years after beginning this blog there continue to be a few commenters who want to go back time and time again to dating methods. Before we discuss these, I am going to be quite clear: Worldview is king when it comes to your ideas about origins and that applies to dating methods, geology, biology and cosmology.

The nature of reality involves metaphysical questions such as cannot be answered easily by the evidence around us. Who are we (if indeed we really do exist) and why are we? When we consider metaphysical questions we are necessarily not able to bring physical evidence with us all the way to the end.


met·a·phys·ics (mt-fzks)
n.

1. (used with a sing. verb) Philosophy The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.

2. (used with a pl. verb) The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.

3. (used with a sing. verb) A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.

4. (used with a sing. verb) Excessively subtle or recondite reasoning.

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[From pl. of Middle English methaphisik, from Medieval Latin metaphysica, from Medieval Greek (ta) metaphusika, from Greek (Ta) meta (ta) phusika, (the works) after the Physics, the title of Aristotle's treatise on first principles (so called because it followed his work on physics) : meta, after; see meta- + phusika, physics; see physics.]

So it is that when we discuss Darwinism or creationism or subjects related to these disciplines such as dating methods we have to begin with the presuppositions of the one doing the dating.

It goes without saying that creationists generally recognize that the Bible is part of the evidence one needs to consider when trying to date both the Universe and the Earth and any fossils found in the rock records. Darwinists will usually either dismiss the Bible or to analogize it so that anything the Bible says about time is ignored or not taken seriously.

It must be said that Darwinists do not usually even understand that they are making a metaphysical decision when they begin their thought processes by limiting their mind to only the natural world and only material evidences. When someone does this they are not acting logically or reasonably they are instead expressing a preference that is often so strong it could be considered religious in nature.

For instance, did you know there is a site called "Positive Atheism?" I bet you will not be shocked to find that Richard Dawkins is featured prominently? Let's give you a couple of examples:

"An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. -- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, page 6"

I hope you recognize that this is NOT a scientific statement, it is a religious statement. There is nothing evidentiary about Dawkin's delight with Darwin here, but he is simply expressing gladness at having a politically correct excuse for being an atheist.

Dawkins is not going to tell you how wonderfully moral his worldview is but rather he will try to dismiss any basis for morality at all.

"The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
-- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995)"

So if there is no purpose, no evil and no good, then by what right does he then say this? - "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).
-- Richard Dawkins, quoted from Josh Gilder, a creationist, in his critical review, "PBS's 'Evolution' series is propaganda, not science" (September, 2001)"

Well, Richard, in a world with no purpose and no right and no wrong how do you measure whether someone is sane or insane? If all of existence is from blind pitiless indifference then there is no right or wrong, no sane or insane and certainly no good and no wicked. There could be no concept of free will.

Make no mistake, when a Darwinist proclaims that he has a theory (not by the classic definition, nope, just a hypothesis) that has been proven to be factual they are promoting their religion and not making a scientific statement.

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I make no bones about my metaphysical statement. I believe in God. I am a Christian. Although I was brainwashed into believing Darwinism as a child, once I became a Christian I began to question Darwinism for the first time and found that not only was Darwinism not proven it was also not probable. As time went on and I investigated further I found that Darwinism moved from the category of improbable over to the impossible side. I have therefore been posting on the subject for several years.

To the great dismay of my Darwinist commenters, I have to make a factual statement they will not like but nevertheless rings true: Dating is all about the presuppositions.

I will tell you why this is so, but first a brief historical review. Thinkers and scientists in the days of Plato and Aristotle and Socrates and Archimedes began to think about the world as being something to investigate in not just metaphysical ways or "practical" epistemological ways, but in various aspects. What is man? Why is man? How is it we are here (Moody Blues!), what is knowledge, what is reality, what is history, what is morality and then back to who made all this stuff? Greeks highly valued philosophers and scientists (although political intrigues and paradigms were at work even back then) but those who only sat around thinking were frankly not as useful as those who discovered useful things, such as Copernicus and Newton.


The ancient Greeks decided the world was made of perhaps four elements whereas now we know of far more than 100 (118 at last count). Once mankind conceived of the cell we thought of it as a singular simple substance, whereas now we know a typical human cell is far more complex than the biggest auto factory in the world. Obviously the advancement of human knowledge and discovery has taken us to new abilities to fly above the land and under the sea, transmit information digitally including audio and video and, well, we do things the Greeks could barely conceive of happening.


When we discuss dating methods, we first have to consider evidence but not before we remember worldview. If you are captive to your worldview then you will be unable to reach some conclusions even if they are the right ones. So prepare to consider your presuppositions and change them if the evidence does not fit. Richard Dawkins is absolutely unable to do this and therefore he is hopelessly locked in ignorance. He cannot intelligently defend Darwinism against a worthy creationist opponent, which is why he will not debate them any longer. You can check the record, look up the Huxley Debate in which, at Oxford on his home court with an audience of youthful students Dawkins and his partner barely won the vote of the students versus two lesser-known creation scientists, a debate that Dawkins expected to win unanimously. Dawkins was made to look foolish by Ben Stein in the recent movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" and will not debate a top creationist in any circumstances now.


Perhaps you are more able than Dawkins to consider evidence carefully. In any event we go forward. The first two points are going to turn Darwinist cranks but oh well...


Proposition number one: No dating method that does not take the Bible into account is reliable. Archaelogists who work in the Middle East know the Bible is their most important historical reference when investigating ancient digs. The Bible is the only reasonable piece of literature that begins with the very beginning of all things and has an historical account of the prediluvian ancestors of mankind. The Bible claims that the Universe is less than about seven thousand years old and that there was a world-wide flood about four thousand some-odd years ago that reshaped the planet and the ecosystem.


Proposition two: Creationist dating methods have proven to be reliable in part because they take a flood event into account.



Let's look at how Darwinists viewed the rock records in the late 1800's - The rock records had been layed down uniformly over many millions of years. Time and processes pretty much stayed the same. We could date fossils according to their layer level in the rocks. The problem was simply to deduce the age of each rock layer to do the trick.



Creationists said the rock records were almost entirely the result of the deluge of Noah and the immediate aftermath of that event.



Darwinists in the early 1900's - We were wrong about Uniformitarianism. There were a few catastrophes thrown in here and there as well. But we can still use the ages for the layers as previously determined.



Creationists said the rock records were almost entirely the result of the deluge of Noah and the immediate aftermath of that event.



Darwinists in the late 1900's - We were completely wrong about Uniformitarianism but we will not hurry to change the textbooks and the propaganda. We will slowly but surely begin talking about local floods and catastrophes while we figure out new ways to date fossils.



Creationists said the rock records were almost entirely the result of the deluge of Noah and the immediate aftermath of that event.


Darwinists in the early 21st Century - There were huge catastrophic events that reset the fauna and flora of the planet. These were so huge they would be capable of providing an entire layer of sedimentary rocks. We still think the dating assigned to most fossil finds are accurate despite any good reason to keep thinking the same things.



Creationists said the rock records were almost entirely the result of the deluge of Noah and the immediate aftermath of that event.


Do you detect a pattern here? Darwinists have to keep moving the goalposts. Their evidence for macroevolution is based on Uniformitarianism and that is no longer supportable. So now they have co-opted the creation narrative but have substituted more than a dozen massive catastrophes in place of one big one. But the nice even layers we find in canyons and sedimentary mountain ranges testify to one big event in many ways. People who know what is actually found in the rocks know that the standard geological column is a fairy tale. It doesn't exist in the vast majority of the world. In most places there are layers missing or in the wrong order or are of the wrong thickness or they have interbedded or contain megabreccias or folds or polystrate fossils and...well, we have covered this ground before. The rocks testify to a flood just as the organism testifies to intelligent design. This is a huge problem for Darwinists and their dating methods because they have not taken the Noahic Flood into account.


Hurricane Katrina? Multiply that by seventy million perhaps and you could begin to understand the power of a flood that began with forty days and nights of rain while volcanoes exploded, the earthquakes intensified and the crust of the Earth began to rapidly subduct while underground water stores exploded into the sky. The entire face of the planet was covered with water for 150 days. The occupants of the Ark had to stay within for one year and ten days before the ground was dry enough and stable enough for them to come back out.


Biologists will tell you that the massive beasts of the prediluvian world got larger than they possibly could be now in today's atmosphere, which tells us that the atmosphere before the Flood was far more oxygen-rich. The rock layers testify to a massive world-wide flood. We cannot even begin to be sure what happened to the world during this event. Were there reversals of the magnetic pole? Did a comet hit the Earth or make a near miss? Did a huge asteroid strike the Earth? Creationists have studied various possibilities while Darwinists have refused to even consider them.


When Darwinists discuss ice cores and sea cores and tree rings and various other dating methods, they do not take a Flood into account and never do they consider the idea that the world might only be about seven thousand years old. So my evidence will often times be completely new to you because Darwinists do not want to "go there."


Allow me to preface what is coming by underlining how difficult it is to do any kind of dating with a process that features postulated long half-life. One reason is that we cannot trust long age systems is that we do not have a long record of recording these processes and therefore we cannot be sure of their uniformity over thousands of years.


We cannot go back very far into ice records or tree rings with confidence because we cannot know how many layers were produced when and what a worldwide flood and following ice age would do to tree growth and ice layers. I have discussed ice layers in great detail in past articles/posts and you are welcome to catch up by searching my site by "ice cores" and reading them. We will go forward from those posts rather than rehashing them in whole, although we may grab parts and bring them forward if necessary.


Dendrochronology is a horse of another color to some extent so we will have to address that and also the rather embarassing truth about carbon 14 dating that hurts rather than helps the Darwinist cause.


But before I do that, I want to remind one and all that the Darwinists had no good answer for this post about rock cores. They pointed people to the unreliable talkorigins site and backed slowly away.


If you are unsure about dating methods, I promise to go over tree rings and half-lives and carbon dating. In return, I urge you to at least read rock cores trump ice cores so that you will be pretty well caught up to the discussion as it stands.


When you cut down a big tree, you need to tie it or cable it to fall the way you want it to go and often must trim something off the top or take off a few branches before you begin cutting through the trunk. I am confident I can cut down a number of long age dating methods and to do so properly we need to tie the tree off and do some trimming. If you read that post (again, if you had read it once) and come back prepared to discuss the subject going forward then we can at least all agree that the tree has been tied, we just then need to trim a bit and then cut it down.


You are welcome (to those who never knew about helium zircon granite dating) and thank you (to those who actually read or re-read the post)!



10 comments:

Jon Woolf said...

This is your promised post on dating methods? This? Sheesh, what a waste of time!

Radar, as long as you assume the Bible is a valid work of history, nothing you say is worth taking seriously. The Bible is a great work of literature, a worthwhile read on the subjects of ethics and morality, and a sometimes-useful reference on the recent history of the Hebrews. But as a record of pre-history it fails catastrophically. Everything before Exodus is pure myth.

Sorry, but that's the way it is.

Hawkeye® said...

OK. So much for the introduction. Will wait to see the follow-up.

creeper said...

So basically one long-winded example of a special pleading fallacy as an intro. Okay then.

Also, you've apparently come up with a new "argument" here that I don't think I've seen on this blog before: pretending that scientific progress is "moving the goalposts". Would you prefer science didn't make progress then?

That aside, you're still falling victim to the old strawman argument re. uniformitarianism. It does not say that catastrophes never occur...

"Proposition number one: No dating method that does not take the Bible into account is reliable."

You'll have to back that up with something, Radar, because as a proposition this one doesn't pass the smell test. You're pleading for the Bible to be accepted as unquestionable fact without explaining why the Bible should not be subject to the same scientific analysis as any other source (that's what special pleading is). What distinguishes the Christian creation myth from that of any other religion or pre-historic civilization?

It's a fallacy of division (boy, this post is simply riddled with fallacies!) to say that because one book of the Bible with respect to one period in history can be verified or taken to be true, that all other parts should also be taken to be absolutely true (such as the 7 days of creation).

By the same token, we could decide that, since Homer featured some actual locations and historic events in his epics, these epics are incontrovertible proof of the actual existence of the Greek pantheon. And yet it is generally accepted today that the Greek pantheon is mythical.

Do you see the problem with your demand to include the Bible in its entirety as a scientific textbook?

Another point: if your YEC claims happen to be true, then there is no need to use the Bible to skew the results. If the world were 6,000 years old, all observable facts would simply indicate that fact quite naturally.

"Proposition two: Creationist dating methods have proven to be reliable in part because they take a flood event into account. "

The only "Creationist dating method" that you've presented so far was that of dating rocks (which is actually not a "Creationist dating method", but simply a dating method), and the peculiar interpretations used by the creationists in question were debunked a number of years ago, which another commenter (I think it was lava, but it might have been Chaos Engineer) already pointed out in the comments on your post on rock dating with a number of links that showed in-depth refutations, and which AFAIK you never addressed.

But to examine this proposition: how has this method "proven to be reliable" because it takes a flood myth into account?

-- creeper

creeper said...

Oh and as for your overall "worldview" argument - we've been over this one ad nauseam. The basic responses:

1. Plenty of people of various faiths (including quite a few majorities) accept the theory of evolution. That puts the lie to your insinuations that this is a mere atheist plot to get God out of the picture.

2. Science works because it takes worldview out of the picture. It is based on observable facts to the maximum extent possible - otherwise scientists would just insist on introducing their own sets of "facts" (each slapping their own favored religious text on the lab table) and never accomplish anything.

3. A fellow Christian did you the favor of putting together an excellent primer on the subject of radiometric dating from a Christian perspective. He also addressed some common misconceptions here. Some of the misconceptions/untruths that you've presented in this post are addressed there.

"When Darwinists discuss ice cores and sea cores and tree rings and various other dating methods, they do not take a Flood into account and never do they consider the idea that the world might only be about seven thousand years old. So my evidence will often times be completely new to you because Darwinists do not want to "go there.""

Sure, we can "consider the idea that the world might only be about seven thousand years old", but we would promptly discard it because the evidence doesn't indicate anything close to that... that's where you don't want to "go".

"We cannot go back very far into ice records or tree rings with confidence because we cannot know how many layers were produced when and what a worldwide flood and following ice age would do to tree growth and ice layers."

While you can wave your hands and claim uncertainty when you get to the very bottom of the ice core layer record, it should be clear that by the time you get to those layers, you already have hundreds of thousands of layers lined up above you. There is simply no supportable explanation for ice core layers that would get you anywhere close to 6,000 years.

That's something that is commonly overlooked in your arguments. You like to pretend that there are reasonable arguments and approaches on both sides, that it's just a matter of he said/she said (hence the obsessive focus on "worldview' to wave away facts), conveniently overlooking the fact that the difference between the two is vast: 6,000 years vs. approx. 4,600,000,000 years. That's not a difference you can easily cover by casting a little doubt here and there. You'd have to fundamentally explain why all these dating methods that agree with each other are all off by a factor of hundreds of thousands, even millions.

And that's just not achieved by saying "well the Bible is also proof, and it trumps all these facts".

-- creeper

Jon Woolf said...

By the same token, we could decide that, since Homer featured some actual locations and historic events in his epics, these epics are incontrovertible proof of the actual existence of the Greek pantheon.

Yup.

One of the more interesting books I've read recently was The First Fossil Hunters by Adrienne Mayor. In it, she develops a theory that some of the monsters of Greek mythology are based on real creatures -- specifically, fossil creatures. Her best example is the monster called a griffin or gryphon. It's typically pictured with a lion-like body, a hawk-like head, and bird's wings. It was said to inhabit the desert wastes of central Asia, lay its eggs in nests, and burrow through the ground. Mayor shows in detail how this animal could have been derived from fossils of the very common Mid-Cretaceous dinosaur Protoceratops andrewsi.

Mayor did the same thing with other Greek myth-monsters: cyclops, dragons, and giants. Even stories of the ancient battle between Zeus and the Titans are based indirectly on a real place and a real phenomenon there.

In this context, it's interesting to note that there are four known species of snakes with functional limbs. All are known only from Cenomanian (mid-Cretaceous) fossils. Three of them come from the Mideast: two from Israel, one from Lebanon.

...the difference between the two is vast: 6,000 years vs. approx. 4,600,000,000 years. That's not a difference you can easily cover by casting a little doubt here and there. You'd have to fundamentally explain why all these dating methods that agree with each other are all off by a factor of hundreds of thousands, even millions.

Also true. With conventional geologic dating, there are multiple lines of evidence that all agree in general outline. It's important to note that the general sequence of geologic history -- Archaean, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic, Present, and all the major periods and epochs in each age, were named and described long before the development of any absolute dating methods whatsoever. Since we started devising absolute-dating methods a century ago, they all have tended to agree with each other and with the relative-dating methods known to 19th-century geologists. Each method serves as a crosscheck on all the others.

With creationism, there is no such crosscheck available. Among the many "dating methods" endorsed by YECs, you'll find some that suggest an age for Earth in the millions of years, others in the hundreds. The different methods do not converge on a single answer. An objective observer (which Radar, by his own admission, is not) would begin to suspect there's something wrong with the methods that YECs use.

creeper said...

"Archaean, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic, Present, and all the major periods and epochs in each age, were named and described long before the development of any absolute dating methods whatsoever."

And AFAIK in the YEC museum they are all said to have occurred in the year 2348 BC.

Approximately.

-- creeper

radar said...

Since it is Rob's birthday there will be no blog post today. But for sure not one of you has dealt with the helium-zircon question with anything but the ridiculous talkorigins links. In other words, you do not have an answer at all.

Sadly, some of you are captive to your worldview and still cannot even see it! No, it is NOT normal to automatically be a naturalistic materialist, it is an assumption not based on evidence but arising from preference. Naturalism is a religion, not a foundation of science. Great scientists of the past, the majority of them I am sure, would disagree heartily with you concerning your worldview and so do I. You make an a priori assumption not based on a shred of evidence in order to close off the most obvious solutions to consideration. Occam's Razor, anyone?

creeper said...

"But for sure not one of you has dealt with the helium-zircon question with anything but the ridiculous talkorigins links. In other words, you do not have an answer at all."

Let me guess. You didn't read them. (Actually, I don't have to guess since you just made it clear.) Pity, because they did go into substantial detail regarding the shortcomings of the original paper, even going into attempted rebuttals by the authors and refuting them.

BTW, if you want to dismiss the links simply because the articles are posted at talkorigins, we can add yet another fallacy that you've committed in this post: an ad hominem - attempting to dismiss an argument by impugning the credibility of the source.

And don't give us that "they posted lies on talkorigins" line. Not only have you not been able to demonstrate the lie, but you've made it clear that you yourself have no such scruples when you recommend other websites that post demonstrable lies.

"Sadly, some of you are captive to your worldview and still cannot even see it!"

We all have worldviews, and we freely admit that. But that is exactly why in science anything that is not based on observable facts, but simply on one's worldview - such as for example religious texts - has to be excluded.

I notice you have made no attempt to justify such an inclusion, other than an a priori assumption that the text is to be read as a science textbook and that it is 100% correct - this despite the fact that it even contains internal contradictions and thus can not even be 100% infallible.

Not only that, but large numbers of Christians would disagree with you about interpreting the Bible as a science textbook.

"No, it is NOT normal to automatically be a naturalistic materialist, it is an assumption not based on evidence but arising from preference. Naturalism is a religion, not a foundation of science."

You seem to be confusing naturalistic materialism as a useful position in science and natural materialism as a worldview. There is a significant difference between them that has been explained to you on a number of occasions. Naturalistic materialism in science is useful precisely because - as much as possible - it excludes worldviews intruding.

-- creeper

creeper said...

"Great scientists of the past, the majority of them I am sure, would disagree heartily with you concerning your worldview and so do I."

Which is fine, and which is why we ought to leave worldview out of it. Yet here you are, trying to put the focus squarely on worldviews.

Perhaps because you noticed that when it comes to dating methods, the facts aren't working in favor of a YEC position...

"You make an a priori assumption not based on a shred of evidence in order to close off the most obvious solutions to consideration."

You claim that there is an a priori assumption that God does not exist, but that is not the case; it's just that in science there is no a priori assumption that God does exist. And when that is not assumed a priori, then there is no evidence to indicate that he does exist. God is not purposely excluded; he just happens not to be included due to lack of evidence.

"Occam's Razor, anyone?"

Occam's Razor (not an inviolable principle, by the way) basically says not to complicate explanations any more than is necessary. If we can explain rain by simple physical phenomena, we don't need to add "and fairies put the water up in the clouds", as that would be adding a layer of complexity that is not necessary.

Same for evolution, for example. Evolution can be explained by natural processes. There is no need to add that "an all-powerful, omniscient, benevolent supernatural being made it all happen". You're free to believe that, of course, but Occam's Razor would indicate that one should refrain from adding that unnecessary complication to a scientific explanation.

And that's aside from the fact, of course, that Occam's Razor applies to a choice between two theories of equal explanatory power, which is where YEC completely fails and a comparison according to Occam's Razor can't even be made in the first place.

Occam's Razor doesn't work in YEC's favor, Radar.

-- creeper

Jon Woolf said...

But for sure not one of you has dealt with the helium-zircon question with anything but the ridiculous talkorigins links. In other words, you do not have an answer at all.

I do: Humphreys was wrong.

Even if you ignore the comprehensive critiques of RATE posted at several sites on the Web, his claim still falls apart on some rather basic grounds.

In his book The Dinosaur Heresies, Robert Bakker wrote scornfully of a habit among scientists which he termed "the harrumph-and-amen syndrome:" when an experiment gives results that the experimenter doesn't like, he says "harrumph" and ignores it, or makes up a just-so explanation. But when an experiment gives results that he does like, he throws up his hands with a fervent "AMEN!" and announces he's proved his claim is true.

Humphreys has done exactly this. When his helium-zircon measurements gave results that he liked, he threw up his arms and shouted "AMEN!" When U-Pb and fission-track dating tests on the very same rocks gave results that he didn't like, he snorted "harrumph!" and invoked a miracle -- namely, a "burst of accelerated radioactive decay" early in Earth's history. The problem with this is that such an "accelerated decay event" would have violated multiple laws of physics and should have left many detectable traces, some in terrestrial rocks, others in the light from distant suns. As with most ad hoc hypotheses, the "accelerated decay event" raises far more questions, and more difficult questions, than it answers. Occam's Razor then argues that the "accelerated decay event" hypothesis is most likely wrong.